CROYDON COMMENTARY: The Prime Minister may have sacked her Chancellor and his replacement might have scrapped almost all of the Trussonomic financial policies announced just three weeks ago.
But, says PETER UNDERWOOD, pictured right, there’s no sign that the Tories will abandon their ‘assault on nature’
Under the cover of their disastrous Mini-Budget, the Conservatives also announced that they want to rip up the planning protections that prevent overdevelopment and, alongside a raft of other harmful measures, allow developers to build on our green spaces.
And while Prime Minister Liz Truss has performed some of the quickest U-turns in political history to help the financial markets, the Conservatives are still pushing ahead with their attack on nature.
When I say “attack on nature”, those aren’t my words.
That is the verdict of the RSPB: “Make no mistake, we are angry. This Government has today launched an attack on nature. We don’t use the words that follow lightly. We are entering uncharted territory.
“As of today… wildlife is facing one of the greatest threats it’s faced in decades. What the Government has proposed… tears up the most fundamental legal protections our remaining wildlife has. If they carry out their plans, nowhere will be safe.”
It was not just the RSPB. Joan Edwards, director of policy for The Wildlife Trusts, said the Conservatives’ policies will mean “polluters can get away with poisoning our rivers and countryside – even more than they are doing already. It also means ripping up the rules that protect our most important wildlife sites from damage.”
Hilary McGrady, of the National Trust, said that environmental protections are dismissed as “burdens” by the Conservatives, while investment and growth are pitted against nature and climate action.
So what has the Conservative government announced?
First, they have launched their “Investment Zones”. These areas cover huge parts of the country, including Croydon, where they say that they will be “liberalising planning frameworks to encourage rapid development”.
In other words, getting rid of the planning protections that local residents can use to prevent overdevelopment and building on our precious green spaces.
Second, the government has said they want to rip up the environmental protections introduced by the EU but without any plans to replace them with new protections. The Conservative manifesto promised “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”, but Ruth Chambers, a senior fellow at Greener UK, says thatt the planned removal of hundreds of laws protecting air quality, our rivers, wildlife and food standards would derail the government’s pledges and put public health at risk.
Third, the Conservatives are withdrawing plans to help farmers to protect nature, with reports suggesting the Environmental Land Management Scheme, or ELMS, has been put on hold while a return to a Common Agricultural Policy-type payment per acre is expected. And which will break another specific Tory manifesto pledge.
Finally, Jacob Rees-Mogg is removing the restrictions that were imposed to stop fracking. Fracking is an incredibly inefficient and extremely damaging method of trying to extract fossil fuel from our countryside. Apart from the massive damage this will do to our green spaces, fracking is far less effective than building new renewable energy projects, it will do nothing to reduce energy bills and even the founder of one of the big fracking companies, Cuadrilla, is now saying it is not viable.
Before fracking was banned, there was a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (No.245) that covered all of Croydon. I have asked local Conservatives if they would now support this licence being re-issued. Unsurprisingly, they have not replied.
Bizarrely, in the Selsdon Vale and Forestdale by-election, the Conservative candidate claims on her leaflets that she will protect green spaces. Either she doesn’t know about her own party’s policies, or she doesn’t understand the effect they will have.
As someone who spends their working life caring for nature and who has campaigned to protect our green spaces for many years, you will not be surprised that I am completely against these Conservative policies.
I will stand with local residents to fight against plans to ruin our area and if I am elected as the councillor for Selsdon Vale and Forestdale in the by-election on November 3, I will make sure your views are heard on the Council.
Wherever you live, you can join the campaign to fight back against these proposals.
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- Environmentalist Peter Underwood is the Green Party candidate in the Selsdon Vale and Forestdale council ward by-election taking place on November 3. For details of other candidates, click here
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